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Kennedy Retirement Ignites Fierce Battle Over Supreme Court; Trump Gets Second Supreme Court Pick As Justice Kennedy Retires; Activists In Washington March Against Immigration Policies; Deputy Rosenstein & FBI Director Wray Face Lawmakers. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 28, 2018 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[12:32:27] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome back. The swing vote on a fiercely divided Supreme Court is retiring in an election year in a country that seems more polarized by the hour. So brace yourself for a summer of raw politics and also consider the enormous policy stakes. Justice Anthony Kennedy was the swing vote in upholding Roe v. Wade.

Candidate Donald Trump promised if given the chance to stack the high court with conservatives, he would strike down the line mark abortion rights really. Kennedy was also the deciding vote to check affirmative action and to recognize the right to same-sex marriage. President Trump's second court pick in just his second year in office could well reshape American law for decades.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The travel ban ruling underscores just how critical it is to confirm judges who will support our constitution, and I'm very honored that he chose to do it during my term in office, because he felt confident in me to make the right choice and carry on his great legacy. That's why he's there. So we have a pick to come up. We have to pick a great one. We have to pick one that's going to be there for 40 years, 45 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The timing adds to the already overwhelming drama here. Midterm election years are usually bad for the party in power, but Republicans know a good court fight motivates a conservative base that, so far this year, let's be honest, has been far less engaged than the Democrats. Republicans also know a court fight will give fits to vulnerable Senate Democrats in the states President Trump won. So the man responsible for the President getting his first pick says the vote to confirm the second will be this fall.

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SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: This is not 2016. There aren't the final months of a second term constitutionally lame duck presidency with a presidential election fast approaching. We are right in the middle of this President's very first term. To my knowledge, nobody on either side has ever suggested before yesterday that the Senate should only process Supreme Court nominations in odd- numbered years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, the Democrats say that's hypocrisy. They cannot, cannot stop this, correct?

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: They cannot stop this. Republicans have -- Assume John McCain is out, they have 50 members. Neil Gorsuch got 54 votes including three Democrats, Heitkamp, Manchin and Donnelly. They all seem open to evaluating this person on the merits. It's going to be very difficult for them to, you know, to block this one. Having said that, the enormity of the stakes here, it's just hard to overstate.

[12:35:01] I mean, Kennedy have sided with the left on issues like same-sex marriage, and abortion could be the vote to overturn -- to flip Roe v. Wade affirmative action. And he sided with the right on things like Citizens United, the campaign finance ruling, on gun rights, on voting rights. That's going to be cemented with another conservative justice for a long time. Democrats stayed home in 2014. They flipped the Senate. They lost two Supreme Court votes for a generation.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: And the money that is already -- are we even 24 hours out from his retirement and there's already judicial crisis network, $1 million. One nation, which is a McConnell-affiliated nonprofit, 100,000. The coup (ph) network is going to spend seven figures. That is all good for Republicans. They already had a better map speaking in terms of the Senate than Democrats. This makes it harder for those moderate Democrats that you mentioned to vote no, and just generally because their states in particular are going to be flooded by all this outside money that, you know, most likely would not have been there otherwise.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: I mean, this is -- to the victor go the spoils and this is the consequence of an election. McConnell will not be all to play hard ball on this. Obama's second nominee was confirming August of -- in midterm election year, so it shouldn't be hard argument to make. And Republican voters are Supreme Court of the United States voters.

They are interested in it, and if yesterday was any indication, they were very excited about it. It's basically the one thing that brings the two sides of the coalition together anymore. And many of them who were not Trump voters go, geez, maybe that was worth it.

KING: Democrats say it will be different this year. They say that on immigration, which Republicans have won in the past as a motivating issue, and on the court which Republicans have won in the past is a motivating issue. Democrats say this year will be different. We will see as it plays out.

But to your point, this is the 2016 exit poll. In your vote, the Supreme Court appointments for the most important factor. 21 percent of voters on Election Day 2016, 21 percent, 2 and 10 said the Supreme Court was the biggest factor in their vote. Of those voters, 56 percent voted for Trump, 41 percent voted for Clinton. So this is an intensity issue for the Republican base, which is why this is the President in North Dakota yesterday, just made a very important factual point, Heidi Heitkamp voted for Neil Gorsuch. But the President doesn't want the voters of North Dakota to think about that when they decide whether their Democratic senators should be reelected.

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TRUMP: Heidi will vote no to any pick we make for the Supreme Court. She will be told to do so. Now maybe because of this she will be forced to vote yes. Who knows? But I will tell you, she'll vote no the day after the election on everything. Justice Kennedy's retirement makes the issue of Senate control one of the vital issues of our time. The most important thing we can do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He is correct.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: He is correct, but it is interesting, the dynamics of the timing here are interesting. Because the Republicans want to wrap up this vote before the voters go to the polls. For obvious reasons, they don't want to chance the fact that they might lose control of the Senate and have it be in a different posture.

So, is it harder to say to voters, Republican voters, conservative voters, come to the polls because of the voting issue, because of the Supreme Court issue when the Supreme Court issue is essentially resolved at that point? And remember, the reason that people were so intense about it in 2016 was not only because, you know, conservatives hadn't yet been able to shape the court, but because there was literally a Supreme Court justice seat open. And so you could make the argument to voters, it's important that I get the chance to do it. By the time the voters go to the polls, this could be done.

KUCINICH: And because of that open seat is why you're hearing, particularly progressives, tell Democratic lawmakers, even though there's not a whole lot they can do. They want them to fight. They want them to grow down over this.

KAPUR: The only question here is, if Democrats fail upward by mobilizing their base or if they fail, well, depressing their base. Democrats can make the argument like they have never been able to make before the Republicans want to overturn Roe v. Wade, and this could be the seat that doesn't even if Roe v. Wade did not overturn. And I think Chief Justice Roberts, it would be in his character to preserve that ruling, but they could kill it with a thousand cuts.

Upholding state laws design to shut down as many abortion clinics as possible. Let's say like Texas and Mississippi have tried this before. There is a lot -- a five majority -- conservative majority Supreme Court can do to roll back abortion rights and make it virtually and accessible in parts of this.

HAM: But in the end, if Roberts if the new swing vote, that's a new world for the left for sure.

KING: That's a new world. It is a more conservative world even though, I mean, Republicans don't like the Obamacare vote. That's Roberts' side with the progressives on that, Anthony Kennedy who's actually voting to take away Obamacare. So we'll see if (INAUDIBLE) forward again a very consequential summer ahead.

When we come back, Rod Rosenstein and Chris Wray, the FBI Director and Deputy Attorney General, waiting to go back into that hearing room up on Capitol Hill. That, in some of the other days, big political headlines in just a moment.

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[12:44:24] KING: Some pictures here just moments ago here in the nation's Capitol. Protesters demonstrating against the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border. The activists' message, the separation policy in their view defies American values.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here today, because we are in a very dangerous moment, is willing to use the machine of immigration enforcement to terrorize our communities, to separate our families and to get votes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I ask America. And I ask every American person in this nation, is that the America we know?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:45:06] Immigrants' rights protests also happening in out in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where the President holds an event later today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA! Hey, hey. No KKK! No fascist USA! No Trump!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The protests playing out across the country at a time when any hope for immigration legislation this year has collapsed. Correct? Except for perhaps a stand-alone piece of legislation where Republicans give the government the authority to hold families together?

KAPUR: A narrow piece of legislation that very, very specifically addresses family separation and allows these families to remain together as they cross the border, seek asylum, what have you. I think that was the only thing that has a shout-out (ph) passing. I'm not even sure that's going to happen.

Yesterday we saw the collapse of legislation on the floor of the House that was negotiated between the conservative Republicans and the centrist Republicans. The moderate Republicans really got rolled on this one. They made a gamble to, you know, both from their bipartisan effort with Democrats on a clean DACA bill, partnered with the hard right. A lot of them didn't even support the bill in the end. So they're getting hitted home from the left for, you know, addition to bipartisan efforts and from the right for supporting a bill that they call amnesty.

SHEAR: Can I just bring these two stories together a little bit? One of the things that's going to be interesting, Republican candidates are going to want to talk about the judges on the campaign trail because it's a great issue for them, they think. The question will be does Donald Trump --

KUCINICH: Right.

SHEAR: -- keep this immigration issue alive through tweets, through talk about the border and the wall, in a way that muddies that message. The Republicans would be much more likely to want to talk about taxes and judges than the images we just saw.

HAM: And it is a double-edged sword on the left for activists as well, because there is energy there, but also you're reaching a point where many candidates on the left as the insurgent New York 14 call for the abolishment of ICE. And Kamala Harris has hinted at it. And if you get rolling, it's not going to work in places other than New York 14 all the time.

KING: Right. That might sell that in the blue coast. Much harder to sell that in Middle of America. Another question for the administration going forward, there was going to be, now you have the GAO and another government investigation of the handling of reuniting these families, and so far there's been slow progress in that regard. So that issue will stay with us as we go.

Quick break. When we come back again, we're waiting for that House Judiciary Committee hearing to resume. The Deputy Attorney General and the FBI Director, you see the members coming back into the room right now. We'll see if they're going to bring this hearing back to order. Let's see.

All right. Well, let's keep the conversation here as we wait they start here in the room. Let's stand immigration just a minute. If I could show you it's the way for this hearing to be. I think we have the numbers to show you.

The Department of Homeland Security is now asking the Pentagon to create shelters for up to 12,000 migrants. This would be to keep families together. Again, the question is will that hold up in court if Congress doesn't act? Does the administration have the authority to do that?

And then there is the question of the reunification. The administration put out a policy statement Saturday night essentially trying to say, we have our act together here, we're going to do this. But only 500 so far, by the numbers given to us by the government, have been reunited with their families and more than 2,000 children are still in the centers as they try to go through this process. So the President likes this issue. This accountability piece of it, though, could undermine the President's argument.

KUCINICH: And as much as the Pentagon wants that, they'll have to certify that these facilities are adequate for children. That is under Flores and that will send it right to the courts if they do not. And, you know, as far as I know, that hasn't happened yet apart from the fact that you would be holding all of these people, you know, in detention indefinitely.

KAPUR: There are polls that show that conservative Republicans are more mobilized by the issue of immigration than progressives are. You know, younger voters, Latino voters, tend not to vote in midterms, but this is the kind of thing that could flip that dynamic. Beyond that, you know, one of the phenomenons of the blue wave right now is not so much younger voters and Latino voters, it is suburban professionals, women in particular in these districts that are going to determine, and these numbers do not help.

KING: Again, watching this, the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, still standing. He's about to take a seat.

We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, back to Capitol Hill. Republicans raising questions about what they see as bias in the investigation of the President. Democrats say, it's all conspiracy theory. Stay with us.

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[12:52:08] KING: Welcome back. Moments ago we showed you some pictures of protesters outside the Justice Department. It's a busy day here in Washington. This is outside the Justice Department. These are anti-immigration protesters, protesters against the Trump administration's policy of separating borders -- families, excuse me, at the U.S.-Mexico border there.

Outside the Justice Department, they say they're going to make their way up to Capitol Hill. We'll keep our eye on that. We're also keeping an eye on the hearing room up in Capitol Hill. The House Judiciary Committee room, where there was a break for a vote. It was supposed to be a six-minute break. It's been almost an hour now.

You see Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the FBI Director Christopher Wray is there as well. Back into a hearing in which Republicans are attacking the Justice Department. They say they're not producing documents that they want about the investigation. They're also questioning the credibility of the Deputy Attorney General. They're questioning the credibility of the FBI Director.

It should be noted there are Republican House members questioning the credibility, the integrity of the investigation led by, in this case, two Trump appointees. I'm constantly trying to figure out if the leadership of the Republican Party actually agrees with this when they watch Congressman Jim Jordan accused the Deputy Attorney General of concealing things, of deceiving, of essentially lying and stonewalling the United States Congress. The leadership went along with the vote today to tell the Justice Department move more quickly. Do they think this helps their party?

KAPUR: They're cutting a very tough place I think between the passions of their base and their desire to be responsible and to be irresponsible and to not let, you know, someone like Devin Nunes run amok with this investigation. This whole -- This hearing and everything we're seeing around this just highlights the state for 2018 election voters can decide who they want to control the House of Representative as overseas. Does that mean subpoena power? That means they decide, you know, whether it's a contempt citation and that also means possibly impeachment when a verdict comes down as to what happened and what didn't.

KUCINICH: With potentially new leaders. I mean, Paul Ryan is gone after this year. So there will be a new head of the House Republicans, and who that's going to be, and that really matters. I mean, is it going to be Kevin McCarthy? Jim Jordan, who we saw with his exchange with Rod Rosenstein, he also has thrown his hat in the ring to potentially be speaker of the House. Now, I don't -- I would venture to say they would run the House very differently.

KAPUR: Jim Jordan is not going to be speaker. I think everyone -- in my conversations --

KUCINICH: That is very true.

KAPUR: -- they all know that but he could prevent someone from being speaker and move the eventual speaker to the right on this issue.

SHEAR: And this is a tension that the Republican Party in the Congress has been struggling with for a long time, this question of how much do you look responsible, whether that's on budgets, whether that's on shutting the government down versus how much do you play to the sort of -- you know, the real sort of hard-core base of the party that's both out there in the country and that's represented by this sort of, you know, minority of the Republican Party in the House, especially, which drives a lot of this tension.

[12:55:03] KING: And Rod Rosenstein repeatedly saying, sometimes with a bit of a smirk on his face, that he believes the facts are on his side. And what everybody knows, what Bob Mueller knows, what everyone knows what this investigation is about, he will be held up to doing his job and doing his job correctly.

Let's listen to Chairman Bob Goodlatte, I think bringing the hearing back to order. Let's listen.

REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R), TEXAS: -- yesterday that (INAUDIBLE) working on the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, he was assigned as the lead agent at the Russia collusion investigation from late July of 2016 until May of 2017. And then late May of 2017 following your appointment of Robert Mueller, Agent Strzok became part of Special Counsel Mueller's investigative team until late July of 2017 when he was removed by Special Counsel Mueller and returned to the FBI. Any disagreement about that timeline? ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't have the precise dates, but that sounds generally accurate.

RATCLIFFE: All right. During 11 hours of testimony yesterday, Agent Strzok testified at length about his roles during that year from late July of 2016 to late July of 2017 as part of those investigative teams. He testified, in fact, that he drafted the initial investigative plan on the Russia collusion investigation, that he made investigative decisions and took action to gather information and collect evidence in both the Trump-Russia matter and -- and the Special Counsel probe. Agent Strzok also admitted that before and during that same year --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A point of order, Mr. Chairman? We had a closed hearing on Peter Strzok. If you want to call his testimony like this, release the transcript. Have an open hearing. Don't characterize and not let him testify. Don't take things out of context. Release his transcript.

REP. BOB GOODLATTE (R), VIRGINIA, CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: That is not a valid point of order. Gentlemen, proceed.

RATCLIFFE: So Agent Strzok also --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The general says point of order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I assume it is a valid point of order to object to quoting or characterizing statements in a confidential setting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Release their transcript, Mr. Chairman. American people --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's Strzok's testimony under oath. Do not hide his testimony.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyway, let him do my point of order.

RATCLIFFE: The testimony, Mr. Chairman, as you know from the transcribed interviews can be used for hearing purposes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Release the transcribed interview to the American people.

GOODLATTE: The transcript will be released to American people at appropriate time, but we can use it for the purpose of question to the witness in the hearing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were in the impression, Mr. Chairman, of this hearing that these transcripts are not to be quoted.

GOODLATTE: The chair has ruled.

RATCLIFFE: Gentlemen, so Agent Strzok also admitted that before and during that same year --

(INAUDIBLE) RATCLIFFE: All right. Agent Strzok admitted that before and during that same year, he sent many, many text messages about Donald Trump, text messages that we've already established and you've agreed --

(INAUDIBLE)

RATCLIFFE: Is the gentleman finished?

(INAUDIBLE)

RATCLIFFE: So, again, Agent Strzok sent many text messages about Donald Trump. We've established and you've agreed that those reflect a hatred and bias towards Donald Trump. Now, I reviewed with Agent Strzok, and he confirmed that he was, in fact, the person who sent the text messages that said, f Trump, Trump is an f-ing idiot. That talked about stopping Trump from becoming president, that talked about impeaching Trump as the president, that talked about protecting the country from Trump and talked about an insurance policy against the risk of a Trump presidency, just to name just a few.

Those are the very same text by the way that Inspector General Horowitz as you know characterized as deeply troubling and expressed his concern that Agent Strzok may have acted upon the bias expressed in those Trump's in prioritizing his work on the Russia collusion investigation on the Weiner laptop issue, a matter that he is now investigating. Now, when I asked Agent Strzok about his conversations with Special Counsel Mueller or anyone on his team about his removal, he described the details of a single conversation. He said it lasted about 10 or 15 minutes, but certainly less than 30 minutes.

He said, Special Counsel Mueller made it very clear that he was being removed from the case because of the text messages, but I was surprised that he said that neither Special Counsel Mueller or anyone on his team asked him about the text or his expressed hatred of Donald Trump. He said Special Counsel never asked him what he meant when he sent those texts.